The President called together key Senators and members of his cabinet in hopes of re-invigorating stalled discussions in the Senate over climate change legislation. This summer the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require greenhouse gas reductions of 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. Since legislative debate moved to the Senate, a viable bill has yet to emerge.
Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham have been attempting to hammer together a compromise that they feel could garner the 60 votes needed in the Senate. At yesterday’s meeting Senator Kerry stated he expects a bill to emerge from their discussions by the end of the month.
The renewed effort comes as a recent Gallup polls shows Americans with the highest level of skepticism for global warming:
The poll notes the highest skepticism is among Republicans. However, there is has been a general trend upward.
The poll results come after months of mounting criticism of the United Nations climate science panel’s findings regarding the likelihood of climate change. Fact checks revealed some of the more drastic impacts claimed in the UN’s report appear to have been exaggerated by the authors. This from the Times:
The latest criticism of the IPCC comes a week after reports in The Sunday Times forced it to retract claims in its benchmark 2007 report that the Himalayan glaciers would be largely melted by 2035. It turned out that the bogus claim had been lifted from a news report published in 1999 by New Scientist magazine.
Turns out the more likely date for melting the glaciers is a few hundred years away. Just yesterday the UN announced it would perform an independent review of the the study in the face of mounting criticism. This from the U.K. Guardian.
In an announcement at the UN in New York Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, and Rajendra Pachauri, the much-criticised head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the InterAcademy Council, which represents 15 national academies of science, would conduct the independent review.
The announcement follows months of controversy which, while not altering the scientific consensus on climate change, has given fresh ammunition to opponents of action on global warming.
The latest polling and issues at the UN form the backdrop to efforts to pass climate legislation and their influence should not be under appreciated. Some Senators are pushing for dropping cap and trade entirely from the bill leaving a national mandate on renewable energy. The President has commented he is not in favor of this approach and still believes a price on carbon is the way to go.
Senator Kerry made comments that the proposed bill to appear at the end of the month will look much different than anything which has been revealed to date. Most likely it will be much narrower in scope than the House passed bill. It may take a sector approach versus the much broader cap proposed in the House bill. Emissions from the utility sector could be the only regulated pollutants.
Regardless, with criticism mounting on the key UN report and public opinion showing reduced support, it will be tough to pass any climate legislation. At the same time, it appears the bills designed to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with greenhouse gas regulations under existing Clean Air Act authority are for show only.
Best guess is that all this political maneuvering will leave us with EPA regulations beginning this month and no climate legislation in 2010. Word to the wise…we will be revisiting this approach down the line.